Best New CIO: Futures in Fashion Association

A new organization on Grounds gets recognized for its excellence


Futures in Fashion Association members have a passion for an industry never before seen on Grounds.

Student Council recognized Futures in Fashion Association earlier this month as the Best New CIO for the academic year.

Founded in spring of 2013 by then fourth-year Commerce student Kristin Ulmer, the organization’s website claims the group “works to create an open dialogue between U.Va. students interested in fashion and industry professionals to raise awareness within the student body about working in the fashion industry.” Now led by president and third-year Commerce student Mai-Vi Nguyen, FIFA has taken Grounds by storm.

“Our bigger purpose is to foster a fashion community at the University,” Nguyen said. “Not only those who are creative or artsy, but anyone who is interested in fashion and working in the industry.”

Between partnering with other organizations, participating in the Tomtoberfest and swinging guest speakers like then-CEO of Fifth & Pacific Bill McComb, the organization has climbed the ranks in name recognition. FIFA was recently featured as 21st on Society of the Dawn’s list of student organizations dedicated to diversity.

“It was way more successful that we could’ve ever imagined and we were all super happy,” said membership chair Elyse Eilerman, a second-year Commerce student. “There’s a desire in the U.Va. community for something like this. I think a lot of people are interested in working on the business side of fashion, so I think there was a niche where we fit in perfectly.”

Beyond a presence on grounds, FIFA hopes to build connections among members and alumni currently in the fashion industry. With these connections, internships and jobs in the competitive fashion industry can be easier to obtain.

“What we really want to give our members is the ability to reach out and make connections with people already working in the industry, because it can be really hard to break into that industry even if you’re on the business side,” Eilerman said. “That’s what we’re here for, to be a stepping stone to help students and also to provide a community.”

Though the University does not offer a fashion program, many members of the Futures in Fashion Association are adamant in their desire to work in the industry.

“[We want members to] see coming from U.Va. — which is a school that is definitely more liberal arts, business or engineering — that there is an opportunity for them,” said club secretary Emily Sefcik, a second-year College student. “It is a very competitive industry but we just want to show that it is possible [to break into].”

FIFA organizes and establishes contacts in the fashion world, providing possibility and promise for futures in the fashion industry.

“The main reason why I wanted to get involved in this and lead this is because others helped me realize my dream, which sounds cheesy but at the beginning of [the spring 2013] semester I was still looking for finance internships,” Nguyen said. “I want to help other students realize that, too, and achieve their dreams.”

Beyond professional contacts, the organization also fosters a community based on the common interest of fashion.

“We want to be a social organization to connect students who are interested in fashion to have an outlet to talk about the latest fashion shows and also the professional side where we help students jumpstart their careers in the industry, connect them with industry professionals and help them through the application and interview process,” Nguyen said. “We like to say we’re both social and professional.”

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